Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle and is the author of two paddling guides.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10 Tips for Better Wind Paddling

10 Tips for Paddling in Wind
With Autumn in full force, we've already experienced strong wind, rain and dropped temperatures.  Many have put up their boards till Spring, while others are stoked to get into the changing conditions. This is prime Downwinding season. Here's 4 tips to help you paddle in wind more efficiently and thus have more fun.

1. Look for the Lee to paddle upwind.  The 'Lee' are sections that are protected from the wind. Behind hills, docks and other obstructions which create areas of calm water. Paddling a curvy path is easier than in a straight line to your destination. Lee are similar to an eddy in a river.

2. Use short quick strokes to paddle upwind taking the blade out at your toes or sooner. Longer strokes mean you'll be pushed back on the recovery.  

3. Bend over at your waist and drop your head to reduce your footprint when paddling upwind.  

4. Wear bright colors so you can be seen and you can see your friends. (see pic).

5. Wear your leash.  Losing a board in wind is very easy.  

6. Feather your blade on the recovery and keep the blade as close to the surface as possible to reduce drag going upwind. 

7. Keep your buddies close.  Wind, current and surfing waves can separate you from your friends very quickly. Last Spring a few guys landed at their cars after a downwind run only to notice they were short one guy. Meanwhile he was swimming 3 miles back to shore in 30kt winds from not wearing a leash. This happened again off Maui with a 2 mile swim by a paddler in September this year.

8. Use wind to your advantage when going downwind. Instead of paddling for power only, use your body and flat part of your blade as a sail. 

9. A Southerly means the wind is coming from the South. Common winds in Seattle are NE, SE and SW. Each section of the Sound has a different wind pattern. If it's SE in Seattle it could be W in Port Angeles. Use a real time wind forecast app like SailFlow or WindAlert. 

10. Take a Downwind and/or rough water class. The more you know the more safer you'll be while having more fun. We offer a Downwind class in Seattle. Also check out Art Aquino in Seattle. If in Oahu check out Blue Planet Surf; on Maui, Paddle with Riggs

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to deal with a broken roof rack..

Last week was a crazy week. After surf wax melted to my dashboard, a day later while taking the car in for my weekly car wash to clean the salt off, I heard a loud POP sound.  I figured it was the already broken plastic thing on the top of my hatchback (ignore in pic), so I didn't worry.  A few hours later while getting ready for a paddle, I noticed one of my Yakima roof rack towers was broken and the bar was hanging partially over the side of the car. Uh oh. (see picture) 

I pulled the bar back into place then taped it to the roof rail with foil tape which I use for board dings.Rack & Road, a rack shop near me and the guys there worked on finding me a Yakima tower that would match my others. They did find one with a hand tightened screw. I also contacted a favorite paddling shop NW Outdoor Center but they didn't have extra parts.  If Rack & Road hadn't worked out I would have to purchase 4 new towers, approx $168. Certainly worth starting new but during my slow season, I'd rather spend the remainder on something else.

Taking it home, I re-installed the tower but couldn't tighten the screw enough to properly secure the tower to the rack (was wobbly).  Back to the Rack & Road store, they fished out a wrench tightened screw (excuse my lack of tool/parts vocab). After some work, the guy there got it to tighten properly, leaving the tower secure to the roof rail - good to go!

Back at home, I did the shake test where I push up hard on all the bars and push and pull them side to side to make sure the rack is secure.

Rack Pads - I use both store bought pads that slide over the bars and insulation pipe foam. Both work great. Sponsors donated the pads but I'll soon be using only the insulation foam as they stick better to the boards and when surfing at spots where localism is a problem, I don't like showing up looking like an advertisement and getting wax on my car in another location. Hasn't happened to me but friends have experienced it.  :)

Roof Rack Solution if Entire Rack is Broken: Worse case if this happens to you on the road far from a good rack store, you're still in business using a bit of creativity.  Remove the other tower (unbroken one) then store the bar in your car.  Then think like a surfer without a rack - look for a towel, yoga mat thin block of foam and place on the roof in the location of your previous bar (ideally at same level as other bar).

Place your board(s) on top of the material and other bar.  Tie the board to your existing bar as you normally do.  Then place your strap or rope over the board then through your doors and secure both ends in the car so the board is tight above you. If using rope or your strap doesn't have a buckle use a Truckers Hitch to get the most security - unless you're one of those boater or trucker types that knows 5 other better ways to tie things down - but us non industrial minded types stick to granny knots and trucker's hitches. If you have one of those roof rails with holes in it, see my post here on how to tie it down. Test the board after tightening to make sure it's secure. If it's a touch loose on the roof pad end, consider attaching a strap or rope to your bumper. Attach via your leash plug.

Don't Try This at Home...
If that doesn't work try this innovate method of building your own roof rack from the Red Green Show.  Starts at 7:35.

We don't recommend this one

Friday, October 17, 2014

How to not melt your surf wax...

I always lose my board wax. I usually store it in the back of my Subaru or my wet bucket. Providing I remember to bring the right wet bucket (where wet stuff goes).  Last week, I found it and placed in on my dashboard after waxing my boards and paddle shaft.

My class ended four hours later and upon returning to the car I reached in my window to grab the bar.  Or maybe not - it had melted to the dashboard on one of our rare sunny October days.  A week later it's still there.  I could pry it off with a paint scraper but figured I'd leave it there til needed for the next time - better than searching for it in two wet buckets or from the back of the car.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feeling Lost? 4 Apps & Devices to Get Noticed in the Outdoors

A week or so ago a 21 year old hiker got lost while hiking with her two dogs in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.  She was unprepared for the elements which include two nights in the wilderness.  A friend who works for search and rescue showed me a video of the rescue helicopter and their finding of the lost hiker.  In this case the hiker was found by sight as she lit a small fire and was heard yelling by other hikers.

Several years ago a group of kayakers greeted a solo kayaker rounding the Brooks Peninsula on northwest Vancouver Island, a rugged exposed coastline. The kayaker was never heard or seen of again.

Use Float Plan whenever you paddle solo and go on extended trips offshore or into the back country.  A float plan is simply telling friends where you're going, your route, when you plan on getting back and leaving contact info.

To avoid getting into those predicaments and ending up on the News, consider using some of the following devices and apps to either be in contact with your friends or family if needed or be found easier using satellite tracking devices.

ACA's Paddle Ready app - Track weather and send a float plan to friends of your trip and current status.

The Float Plan app - Just that.. send out alerts to your friends of your whereabouts.

Spot Trackers - These devices send folks to your location via satellite signal. Ideal for an evacuation.

VHF Radio - Old school, VHF's allow a direct line of communication to the Coast Guard and other boaters.  Most also have a button to check real time NOAA and Canadian marine weather channels and can be used as a walki talki with your friends and/or guides. I use the ICOM waterproof and floating handheld radio. Each of my guides carry these during classes and especially open water tours.

The downside to the apps is that you need a strong mobile signal.  All of the above need working batteries in you phone/device. Consider a mobile solar charger to keep batteries fresh. Test and know how to use all before leaving home.

Icom waterproof floating VHF

Paddlers Guide for Tracking Shipping Traffic

About fifteen years ago a friend and I were kayaking near our home on Puget Sound in Seattle and came across a large surfable wave.  We surfed it and then wondered where it came from.  We realized that ocean swell wouldn't get into Puget Sound so where did the wave come from?  A few days later, we were out paddling and noticed a few container ships going by.  Twenty minutes after it passed we a sweet wave set of 4' faces rolled in - and we put it together.  We looked the horizon and saw a black dot and soon the dot came closer, and it was another ship, then another wave.  That was 2004.

For several years after we would look the horizon for boat or use bluff parks or road ends above the beach to spot ships.  I later found webcams in locations north of us to help track ships.  Another piece to the puzzle was figuring out which tides were best for these waves. I can't remember when we noticed it, but one of us came across which solved all our problems of hanging over steep bluffs looking through trees to spot ships coming in.  Marine Traffic is a Greek run app that uses ships AIS systems to track their whereabouts and ID.

The Automatic Idenification System is required be be on all boats above 299 gross and lists the boat's name, dimensions, home port, voyage details, photos and it's route.  It runs in real time, allowing us to track ships from the Pacific into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then into Puget Sound.  Boats appear in several different colors depending on the type of boat it is - ferry, recreational, tanker vs container ship or military.  Many military ships and subs don't appear, so we rely on friends to spot those, as the waves are often good.  You can turn on or off any selection of boats to only see what you're interested in.  So we only like the green boats which are the biggest container ships and ferries which put off nice waves in specific spots in our area.

This app is also great for planning paddling trips where you may need to cross a channel or section of water and don't want to run into a 300' long ship on your route.  A paddler in Sweden asked how we tracked ships. I sent him the link and he realized he had nearly 50 ships passing his home waters daily, thus got a great source of surfing in miles from the Atlantic.

Check it out..  or on Facebook

Coming to the Pacific Northwest? Give me a holler if you want to join us freighter and tug wave surfing. We even have a class to show you how and where to catch the waves. More Info

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

6 Tips to Help You Choose a Wetsuit

6 Tips to Help You Choose a Wetsuit

5/4mm means.. 5mm in the chest and legs but 4mm in the arms.  I prefer 5/4/3 as I get more flexibility in my arms with 3mm. Suits these days are very flexible, warm and comfy. You can also add a poly pro layer under or a wetsuit jacket or vest over to boost the heat rating. I don't recommend 6mm as you'll loose a lot of flexibility. Armless Farmer Johns are great for light paddling but not full immersion in winter.

- Back zip or top entry? I prefer a back zip suit as I can get into it and they dry easier. Retailers will insist that zippers leak and that top entry suits are warmer. I've never had a leaky zipper and find it difficult to get in and out of top entry suits.

- Wetsuit vs Dry suit?  It's a personal choice but for me wetsuits are easier to swim in, are cheaper, just as warm and less maintenance. Dry suits require taking care of latex gaskets, the zipper and fabric. If you get a hole in a dry suit, you have a very wet wetsuit. Many wetsuits above the $275 level are actually dry with waterproof seams. Wetsuits range from $150 to the $600 merino wool lined Patagonia. Dry suits start at $600 and go up to $1,500 and don't include insulation. Ocean Rodeo has a good dry suit that looks like a rain coat and pants.

- Tips for buying a wetsuit - Always try before you buy. Neoprene tends to run small. I wear a XL t-shirt but a XXL wetsuit. Last year I found a RipCurl bootie I liked and had to order a size 14 - I usually wear a size 12 shoe. Maybe you found a deal on an online site? Our local retailers like Urban Surf, Perfect Wave and Wave Hounds have similar deals and you can try it out! O'Neill, Xcel, RipCurl, NP, Roxy and Patagonia are trusted brands.

- Cost vs Quality?  A $125 wetsuit will flush and is great for summer paddling but not that warm for winter or if you get cold easy (like me). Suits $175-275 are warmer and a bit less wet.  Suits $350-450 will be dry, won't flush, and much warmer than the others. Higher end suits by Mateuse or Patagonia are very dry and warm but run $500 plus. If you're a crazy 7 day week all year paddler like me, your suit will only stay dry a year. A normal paddler can keep their suit in good condition for many years.

- Should I pee in my suit?  Downside to wetsuits is that you don't get a pee zipper.  I only pee in mine if I know I can flush it out asap. But if traveling having that stink in the car on the way home sucks, so I usually avoid it. Clean the suit in cold water soaking in Dawn or a similar non abrasive cleaner. I use Simple Green for funky smelling garnets. Some like the McNett ( cleaners but I've found Dawn is easier to find, just as good and cheaper.

Read More.. Search this blog for more articles on paddling clothing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Forgot Your Fin Screws?

Running a busy mobile SUP lesson and tour business, sometimes I forget the little things such as fin screws.  Or since I teach my students to put their own fins in, sometimes given then fickle procedure of putting fin screws in - the hardware slips off the board and gets lots in the sand.  Ever notice how sand is the same color of fin screws?

If you lose or forget your fin screws and providing I remembered to bring along some tape, we're good to go!  My ding repair tape is Foil Tape. Find this stuff in the plumbing or insulation aisle at the hardware store.  The best kind has a paper backing that peels off.  This stuff is super sticky and will attach to you board even when sandy and wet.  I carry a small strip of it in my PFD, or deck bag or a larger amount in the car.  Here in the Pacific NW the UV quick cure ding repair epoxy kits don't work too hot, so i'm more of a tape guy, thus it's great for ding repair too.

Taping a fin in requries a few pieces to make sure it's secure and doesn't rattle.  I run two long strips down the length of the fin base and one each over each end.  Sometimes I add a second layer over each to strengthen the bond.  Downside of foil tape? Sometimes its incredibly hard to remove.  Ask my ding repair guy Sean who has to get the stuff off to make a proper repair.

Wanna avoid this issue?  Get quick release fins.  Larry Allison, ImagineSurf and QR Fins are good solutions to having to carry, find and attach those annoying fin screws.